Even on his last day — working in a position that is regarded as one of the most grueling jobs in the White House — Jay Carney didn't get a pass from the press corps.
The first question he fielded after giving his thanks moved quickly away from his departure:
"On behalf of my colleagues, congratulations on making it to your last briefing," a White House correspondent said. "If we can get to Iraq, the president is meeting with lawmakers this afternoon. Is he going to be in a position to tell the lawmakers his decisions ... "
Which underscores an obvious point: Jay Carney's job is bigger than Jay Carney. He might leave, but the issues will remain, the press corp will remain. He's just one replaceable cog in a fundamental American institution. But serving in the job for three years — which is longer than any of his predecessors in the past 20 years — has perhaps lent him as good a perspective on the relationship between the press and White House as anybody.
As I think most of you now understand and believe, it's always a pleasure no matter how hard it gets here, how hot it can be, and contentious as it sometimes is. You know the president — to many of us — said of the jobs we have here in the White House, most of us will never be in a position to do more good for more people as we are in now. We should take advantage of it. And that is something that we all take to heart. I don't ever expect to be in a position again to be a part of something that has at least the potential to do more good for more people. That's been a special thing, indeed. I loved my years as a reporter.... Reporting sometimes can be an autonomous exercise. It's your story, your byline. What was so different about the [White House] experience for me is it was all about a team effort and all about a goal that had nothing to do with any individual, not even the president. That's been extraordinarily gratifying to be a part of.